Love him or hate him, Chael Sonnen got your attention a couple years back when he began his verbal assault on Anderson Silva and his fellow Brazilian fighters.
When he took to the mic to deliver his venom-tipped quips, people sat up and took notice, and the tactic turned what was an underwhelming middleweight championship fight into the must-see event of the summer. His taunts and promises made you want to watch the fight, and whether it was to see if he could back up his talk or if Silva was going to obliterate him, Sonnen’s brand of trash talk moved the needle.
Part of that was that there was conviction in his voice. Even when he was making outlandish and downright ridiculous comments, he delivered it with gusto, and gave all those that heard it the feeling that crazy or not, this guy believes what he’s saying right now.
Jake Ellenberger’s attempts to antagonize Rory MacDonald feel flaccid compared to what I like to call “Classic Chael.”
Last month, The Juggernaut got into a back-and-forth on Twitter with the man he’ll face next weekend at UFC on FOX 8 in Seattle, beginning when he asked his followers “Which round is Rory getting melted?” What followed would fall under the “mild-medium” heat distinction at Noodle Box; there’s some warmth, but nothing that is going to force you to stick your head under the free water tap for 15 minutes.
As much as I appreciate that the war of words between these soon to be warring welterweights has taken a more elevated path than your standard “You suck! I’m gonna beat you!” taunts, the truth is that I don’t feel like it’s doing much to drive interest in this fight or this event as a whole.
Ellenberger’s late-June “Grammar Police” tweet was great, and yesterday’s “This isn’t a Tears for Fears lookalike contest” remark certainly made me laugh (and start singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), but where Sonnen’s initial attack on Silva and co. was full of vitriol and conviction; Ellenberger’s feels forced to me.
It feels like trash talk for the sake of talking trash, a somewhat weak attempt at generating more buzz for a fight (and event) that has flown under the radar and been overshadowed by recent events and announcements.
In addition to following in the wake of UFC 162 and the extended coverage it received, this card has suffered from the heavy (and deserved) push the UFC has been giving their second-half lineup, and injuries reshaping the event.
He’s also trying to instigate a fighter who simply won’t play along.
Although MacDonald has responded to some of Ellenberger’s Twitter jabs -- including the very amusing “dont fool yourself jacob correcting internet spelling wont change your fate #ufconfox8 @ufc” (sic) -- the 23-year-old Canadian isn’t exactly getting all bent out of shape by the things his upcoming opponent is saying. It’s hard to sell heat when the target of the taunts has ice water running through his veins and cares about one thing, and one thing only -- winning.
Here’s the other thing: we’ve already heard this record and seen this movie… and there have already been remakes, remixes, and clear rip-offs put out into the market as well.
Talking trash is the new black.
Actually, it’s last season’s black; the MMA world just hasn’t moved on to the new fall fashions as of yet.
We’ve been sold far too many fights on the basis of Twitter beef and promises of carnage to come, only to tune in and see the guy doing all the talking fail to back up any of the things he said, and the “bitter rivals” show each other nothing but respect when all is said and done.
I’m not saying Ellenberger won’t ensure that MacDonald gets lots of “horizontal television time” as promised or that I want fighters to keep swinging at each other after the bell -- he could and I most certainly do not -- but why not work to sell this fight (or any fight for that matter) on the elements that we’re definitely going to see next Saturday night?
Sell it on Ellenberger’s 8-2 record in the UFC, and his savage first-round knockout of Nate Marquardt, offset against MacDonald’s vast potential and impressive four-fight winning streak.
Sell this fight as two welterweight contenders stepping into the cage, looking to take the next step towards title contention, ready to do whatever it takes to earn a victory.
In my opinion, this is a fight (and an event) where you’re either going to watch it or you’re not, and no amount of funny or forced trash talk is going to have a significant impact on the number of people tuning in.
If the idea of two top 10 welterweights with expansive arsenals stepping into the Octagon, battling it out to move another notch higher on the short list of championship contenders isn’t enough to compel you to spend next Saturday evening watching this fight, no amount of ‘80s pop band references and tepid name calling is going to change your mind.
There have been too many fights sold on manufactured animosity and promises of fireworks that never materialize for me to buy into the Twitter heat this time. Of course, I was excited for this fight the instant I heard about it.
It’s a great fight, and one that should deliver next Saturday night. Why that is never enough of a sales pitch is still beyond me.